I have been itching to visit Vienna for some time now. With a legacy of imperial palaces along with the modern-day achievement of ranking highest city for overall quality of living for seven years running, I needed to see it for myself.
The city is garlanded with pockets of green, with flowers even embellishing the sides of buildings. The 2,000 parks and gardens make up an incredible 50 per cent of the city including the Prater Park, given to the Viennese by Emperor Joseph II and now known for the Wurstelprater amusement and Giant Ferris Wheel.
If, unlike me, you visit during the summer months you can also explore the hiking trails around the city which are adorned with vineyards, or you can swim and sail the river Danube. During the colder months there is the added bonus of Christmas markets soaked in the smell of warm rum punch.
Where to stay
In the seventh district – the heart of Vienna’s creative scene – a circular department store has been turned into the Ruby Marie.
This hotel has something for everyone. For the party animals among us, or the very hungry, it offers a 24 hour bar and café. There is an abundance of choice at the buffet breakfast including hay-milk mountain cheese, premium cold-cuts, vegan options, hand-cut fruit, whole-grain pastries and powerfood cereal.
A library can be found on one floor, a meditation and yoga space on another, a rooftop garden, a movie lounge and even a space at the entrance for various events and exhibitions.
Each room is clean and crisp with white and wooden décor, open glass showers and an amp you can use if you choose to borrow one of the guitars available, or to simply plug in your own music.
The friendly staff and laid back vibe alongside the modern design and offering blends together to offer a classy, comfortable stay with a homely trend.
The grätzlhotel offers self-contained suites from within the walls of former stores and storage spaces, offering deceptively spacious and contemporary home areas.
The three sets of apartments are located in different districts of the city near Karmelitermarkt, Belvedere and Meidlinger Markt, so there is plenty of space and places to choose from.
Staying with grätzl allows you to nestle into local neighbourhoods and discover its Schmäh (wit), Grant – the endearingly grouchy and affable mood of the Viennese.
Staying with grätzlhotel has the added value of allowing you to cook from your new home, which may offer some rest bite to those on a tight budget in one of Europe’s more expensive cities, not helped by the deflating exchange rate.
If you want a little more of hotel feel management is only a phone call away and there is even a minibar offering.
Eat and drink
Vienna’s cityscape is quite spectacular. It is dotted with church steeples and golden statues so getting up high is a must.
On the 18th floor of the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom you can gaze over the rooftops of Vienna while dining in The LOFT. If offers innovative cuisine that is locally sourced, along with sommelier Steve Breitzke’s excellent selection of Austrian and international wines.
The Viennese seem to have a slight obsession with the States, with an abundance of American bars to choose from. To save you time and money head straight to Barfly’s Club. The cocktail selection leaves nothing to be desired with almost 500 cocktails on the menu, close to 1,000 whiskeys and hundreds of bottles of rum. The music from the Rat Pack and the contenders completes the package.
For venues with a far more laid back semblance akin to our pub culture, Miznon and Werkzeugh are unparalleled. I was taken back entering Miznon, not only is the lack of smoking a rarity in Vienese bars, but we were told to grab a seat and help ourselves. Other than ordering from the Israeli street food menu, this place is self-serve.
Werkzeugh, which has a no smoking area, is a large, dishevelled and yet homely bar with mismatched seating where huge groups of people settle in for the night.
What to do
The city is embellished with markets all year round and then full to the brim at Christmastime. Naschmarkt is one of the oldest and largest, offering food, drink and the odd knick knack. Rochusmarkt has been selling flowers and plants for more than 1,000 years near the St. Roch Church, in recent years it has also begun to offer fresh produce.
For a little bit of everything there is Karmelitermarkt, just a few minutes’ walk from the old city, which is surrounded by many artistic bars and eateries in the buildings around the square.
You can walk or cycle from place to place quite easily, time and weather permitting. This al;low you to see all the architectural sights. As you look up through the city you can spotSt Stephens Cathedral, Belvedere Palace, Naturhistorisches (Natural History) Museum, Stephansplatz and Parliament.
It is well worth purchasing a Vienna Card during your stay, as this provides free travel and discounts over more than 200 museums and sights.